In 2012 we celebrated Ridley Scott's return to the helm of the Aliens franchise with the release of Prometheus. Fan speculation and rumour mongering pointed to it as being a prequel to Alien and there were conflicting and flip flopping stories as to whether or not it even took place within the Alien universe. The film itself was rather divisive with people unsure how to feel about whether or not they could even call it an Alien prequel. Much of it made little sense since several clashing elements ended up poorly fitted together. As has become all too common place, there were many reports of production interference from the people holding the purse strings and the film we were hoping would tell the tale of the origins of the Xenomorph, didn't. Overall Prometheus was both trying to do too much while avoiding many of those same things. Symbolic and thoughtful with commentary on gods, creators and life coupled with people who made a map getting lost in the place they made the map the film was uneven and answered almost nothing beyond: it looks like that black goo makes things.
Now we are five years later and Ridley Scott is again at the helm giving us the prequel to Alien we were asking for. Want to know what happened to David and Shaw after Prometheus? Answered. Want to know where the Xenomorph actually came from? Answered. Want to wax philosophic without losing the audience? Done. Want to watch people die in brutal, painful and gory ways? Really you should be medicated but until then, this film has you covered.
Alien Covenant follows the crew of a pioneering colonization mission. A ship malfunction forces the crew to awaken and make repairs 7 years early but while doing so they detect a signal from a nearby world that strangely seems to fit their needs better than they'd hoped their actual destination would. With more than 2000 colonists in cryo-sleep they decide to investigate this potential new home. The team that goes to investigate gets to meet/give birth to the local wildlife and they start looking for answers while trying to make contact with the colony ship and run for their lives.
Fassbender steals the show playing the synthetics David and Edward, each with differing motivations and character traits. Additional stand out roles go to Katherine Waterston and (surprisingly) Danny McBride. That said we don't really get any memorable characters or arcs the way we had in the first two Alien movies, and that in part is what brings this film down a notch. Action and suspense are solid and seeing the Xenomorph move in full CG was astounding. The 2nd act brings in some of the plot threads from Prometheus and slows down the pace of the film as we explore some philosophical points and get a better understanding of the Xenomorph itself. Act three is what you'd expect of an Alien film. A common detraction being made is that Covenant retreads a lot of the classic Alien tropes without adding too much in terms of its plot or presentation. To me that's in part a good thing since we couldn't say that about any Alien films since Aliens. Does it try to do something spectacularly original? No, but if it's just returning to the top form it once had, how is that a bad thing?
I'm not exaggerating when I say this is the best modern Alien film so far. Not since Aliens has this universe and creature so enraptured my sense of awe and entertainment while disturbing me to my core. While it has the creeping horror scenes of the first Alien film it doesn't concentrate solely on them. Less action oriented than Aliens but also less entertaining as well. On my scale, Alien Covenant hits third place. An enjoyable film that doesn't focus in on one mood the way the better first and second movie did and loses out for it. Despite this Ridley Scott is back in good form and fans of these space bugs will finally get some of the answers we've all been waiting for with baited breath. I could go on into a larger spoiler full article and make it a half hour read but for now, rest assured that Alien Covenant is exactly what the franchise needed and buy your ticket.